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Assessing the Variables In Laminating-Film Selection

(October 2006) posted on Tue Oct 10, 2006

Find out how to distinguish amoung the varieties of laminating, the films on the market today and learn what criteria to consider when matching overlaminates with your applications.


By Jeff Stadelman

click an image below to view slideshow

• What type of equipment do you have?
• What is the output size of your equipment?
• How will you be printing the graphic? (i.e., screen printing, inkjet, solvent-based, etc.)
• What does your customer expect, want, and really need?
• In what environment will the graphic be applied, including weather conditions, lighting, and to what substrate?
• How long would you like the graphic to last?

Let's not forget the most important question: How much is cost a factor? Often, the key to selecting the proper film is finding the best balance between material properties and cost.

Universal variables

For anyone considering lamination—regardless of whether it will be thermal encapsulation or pressure sensitive—a set of universal variables must be considered. Examining these variables will give the graphics supplier a jumping off point for making the best recommendation on film type to use.

Adhesive While the adhesive type will differ between thermal films and pressure-sensitive laminating materials, the principles behind selection are the same for both. Utilizing the clearest adhesive that your customer's budget will allow can greatly affect the aesthetics of the graphic. And the higher the profile of the graphic, the more important the clarity of the adhesive becomes. For instance, museums often leave displays in place for long periods of time, and they want the display to be just as pleasing the last day as it was the first. They may select the clearest adhesive available.

Durability The durability of the graphic is directly related to the environment in which it is installed (e.g., indoor vs. outdoor, wall graphic or floor graphic, exposure to moisture/lighting/temperature/traffic). These conditions affect the durability of a film and ultimately the appearance of the graphic. With this in mind, manufacturers create different qualities of films to help you maintain the proper balance of cost vs. function. For example, premium-quality films, which incorporate additives like UV stabilizers; higher quality, longer lasting face stocks; and more technically engineered adhesive systems and are used for more demanding environmental conditions, naturally cost more.


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